NY [U.S.A.], June 28: European Union (EU) regulators penalised U.S. tech giant Google a record United States dollars 2.7 billion antitrust fine on Tuesday, for denying "consumers a genuine choice" by using its search engine to unfairly steer them to its own shopping platform. Allegedly, Google has favored its own shopping services over the competition in its search results, thus abusing its market-leading position.
Google's shopping comparison service is innovative and not anti-competitive, the company's Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker said on Tuesday.
Google has been hit with a record fine of $2.7 billion after the European Commission found it violated antitrust regulations by manipulating search results.
Reacting to this, the U.S. firm said it may appeal. "That's a good thing", said EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy. These results appear above "organic" results, and while they are marked as "Sponsored", they come with no other indication that they are exclusively paid-for listings, meaning it's possible for users to be mislead into thinking that Google Shopping results offer a true price comparison service, rather than simply listing products from retailers willing to pay for inclusion. Joaquin Almunia, the then competition commissioner, noted in a release that "Google has finally accepted to guarantee that whenever it promotes its own specialised search services on the page, the services of rivals will also be displayed in a comparable way".
Antitrust experts and tech executives say that question arises in areas where tech giants have introduced major innovations-like Google's search engine-that become gateways to the internet.
By ranking Google Shopping service ahead of other competitors, Google was able to significantly increase the amount of traffic to the previously ailing service, thereby generating more clicks and revenue.
"Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today", Walker said.
The company will review the decision and consider an appeal.
Why has Google been slapped with the fine? "If you shop online, you want to quickly and easily find the items you are looking for".
French drugs giant Servier, Teva and five other drug companies were fined €427.7 million in July 2014 for colluding to delay the introduction of a generic version of perindopril, a popular blood pressure treatment. "And advertisers want to promote those same products", the company statement said. And in July past year, the European Union investigated whether Google was restricting third parties from displaying search ads.
"We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago". The commission objects to Google using its dominance in the former to seize the lead in the latter. Furthermore, Google's own shopping results are not subject to its generic algorithms, including demotions.